This YA novel, set in the same fictional world as Wicked Lovely, focuses on Aislinn's (of the first novel) friend Leslie. She and Aislinn have drifted apart lately, between Aislinn's new, secret life (which events from the first book detail) and the very bad things that have been happening in Leslie's own life. First, her mother took off. Her father has been drinking; her brother is so into drugs that his own sister has become nothing more than a means of obtaining the drugs he needs.
In the aftermath of a brutal experience at the hands of her brother's "friends," Leslie decides to get a tattoo, something that will enable her to take her body back for her own. And she doesn't just want any tattoo; she wants something different, something special. She's been hanging out at Rabbit's tattoo place, watching him create amazing art, and she's been saving up her money from waiting tables. She just hasn't found the right design yet. She's not sure what she wants, but she'll know it when she sees it.
When Rabbit finally shows her a book of one-of-a-kind designs, she sees it immediately - a design with knotwork and wings, and mesmerizing eyes. Rabbit tells her that it will change her in some way, to have that tattoo, as though he's trying to warn her. But her mind is made up. What she doesn't know is that Rabbit has ties to the Dark Court, and that tattoo will tie Leslie to the king of the court. Since the demise of the winter queen, the Dark Court is weak. When the tattoo is complete, Leslie will serve as a conduit that will provide sustenance to the Dark Court - for as long as her strength - and sanity - last.
Although Leslie has been through difficult times, she learns from those experiences, and she is through with being a victim. Unfortunately Aislinn, worried about bringing her friend into the dangerous world she now inhabits, has been trying to shelter Leslie from it, in order to keep her safe. So Leslie has no idea what she what she's up against.
When I first started reading this book, I felt an initial pang of disappointment at leaving Aislinn behind and following the adventures of a new character. That lasted maybe half a page. Leslie is an engaging character, determined to solve her own problems, and despite her traumatic experiences, she maintains her ability to feel compassion - and act on it. I've read that Marr is planning on writing more books in this dark faerie world, and I, for one, am looking forward to reading them.
Ink Exchange (sequel to Wicked Lovely) by Melissa Marr (HarperTeen 2008)
Also reviewed at:
Midnight Twilight's Book Blog